• Lance-Selae August

Bubblegum pop, flip-phones and mayhem in The Taming of the Shrew

2018 has branded itself as the year in which theatre makers embark on creating theatre presenting various positionalities, This rendition of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew proves to be no exception. Let’s get the logistics out of the way: THE TAMING OF THE SHREW is presented by Siv Ngesi and The Pink Couch, in association with the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre Trust and LiquidMATCH Productions, supported by Artscape Theatre Centre. It is directed by award-winning director Tara Notcutt and features an all-female cast and creative team, something never seen before on a South African stage.

The Taming of the Shrew mainly follows the stories of Lucentio, a student, and Petruchio, an adventurer, who respectively decides to woo Bianca and Katherina – daughters to merchant, Baptista. Baptista is enthusiastic about Petruchio’s conquest and Katherina is a burden to him. Throughout the plot, we see Katherina’s marriage not being the moonshine and roses that she was promised, and ultimately, the production ends with a powerful monologue about what it means to be an obedient and subservient wife. Hearing this in 2018 where society is extremely woke, one immediately classifies the themes being presented as misogynistic, and a tad bit sadistic. Its relevance lies in the reflection of what modern gender dynamics are like.

Notcutt is a feminist, and one of the Western Cape’s most acclaimed female theatre makers. With The Taming of the Shrew, she takes up the director seat for her 15th time, and further to this, she is also the youngest person to direct a play at Maynardville. Notcutt’s niche ranges from intimate drama, to physical theatre, to illusionist theatre, and even opera. Considering this, Shakespearean plays are definitely not out of her comfort zone. Her colourful, vivid interpretation of The Taming of The Shrew aligns to the aims of The Pink Couch (for which she is the artistic director), which focuses on producing cutting-edge works with deep meaning.

Notcutt also documented many of her directorial experiences related to this production through a video blog on Youtube. Through this, one could sympathise with many of the challenges the production team faced, and share in the joy for every victory they enjoyed. She is aided by assistant director, Dara Beth. The Taming of the Shrew also features the talents of actresses, Alicia McCormick, Daneel van der Walt, Buhle Ngaba, Lynita Crofford, Ann Juries, Dianne Simpson, Naledi Majola, Kathleen Stephens, Kate Pinchuck, Masali Baduza and Ameera Conrad. Together, this team presents a play filled with light-hearted humour, delight, and ultimately, seriousness, as the plot unfolds.

TW: The Taming of the Shrew is presented using the original Shakespearian script, however, for those who aren’t avid Shakespeare fundies, rest assured that the production is easy to follow. The production has many modern twists, comedic and suitable pop-music interludes and references, charming dance moves (thanks to choreographer, Cleo Notcutt), a utilitarian set design by Jo Glanville and colourful 90’s fashion as costume choices, thanks to costume designer, Mariechen Vosloo. The production is progressive in its interpretation of classic (and sometimes shrewd) Shakespearian drama, and its modern, funky interpretation gives the production great appeal to younger audiences.

The Taming of the Shrew plays at the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre in Wynberg, at 20:15 nightly. Some performances however start at 19:45. It is advisable to check the weather forecasts, and take a blanket or two along for the chilly nights. Tickets are available at the Artscape Box Office, and at Computicket outlets.

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